On April 2nd it will be exactly five years since Jelle Bataille (23) made his debut in the first division. Antwerp’s flanker can now call himself a mature professional. “I make fewer stupid mistakes than I used to.” Now he also wants to win prizes with the “Big Old One”.
It’s a happy Jelle Bataille who sits down for an interview just days before Antwerp’s game against Charleroi. An unbeaten streak of nine games automatically makes a footballer a little happier.
“It’s logical that the atmosphere in the dressing room is good, because we have the feeling that things are going really well,” Bataille opens. “At the beginning of the competition we won nine times in a row, but I think we’re better now than we were then. We’ve had some convincing victories in the past few weeks, just think of the 5-0 win over KV Mechelen. We took the next step in football. We’re starting to get better at each other. Don’t forget that quite a few new players have joined over the summer and it’s always a bit of a search.”
Antwerp is now so eroded that it should have a say in the title debate. “We’re still ‘only’ third, but we can do it,” says Bataille. “Last year we were already happy to reach Play-off 1, now we feel we can do more. What has changed in the meantime? The team has been strengthened. Guys like Vincent Janssen, Toby Alderweireld, Calvin Stengs and Jurgen Ekkelenkamp add tremendous value. And then there’s the development of Arthur Vermeeren, perhaps our best ‘transfer’. Add to that our perfectly balanced technical staff and you have many assets as a club.”
Bataille himself has also played an increasingly important role in recent weeks. In his second season at the Bosuil, the West Flemish have made some strides forward. “I made my debut five years ago, here at the Bosuil I was allowed to stand in for Ostend for the first time. If I look at the development I’ve made since then… I used to make more stupid defensive mistakes. That goes out. I have become more confident. I’m gradually becoming a mature professional.”
Bus from Ostend
However, in the early weeks of this season, Bataille didn’t get to work that much. On August 14, the former U23 national player even dropped out of the competition squad in Eupen. “Of course that’s no fun,” Bataille looks back. “But right after that I had a good conversation with the coach. He said opportunities would come anyway, look now. Today I play three out of four games, once on the left, once on the right. Of course I’d love to play everything, but I’m still satisfied. This is the top in Belgium, the results and the atmosphere are good. Then you can place it when you start on the couch every now and then.”
It should be clear that Bataille is in his element both on and off the pitch in Antwerp. A trophy at the end of the ride would be the icing on the cake. “We are currently the hunters in the league and we like that. We’ll see where we end up,” said Bataille. “And then there’s the cup final… I was eliminated on penalties once in the semifinals with Ostend. I’ve never felt so bad as a footballer, so I’m happy now already for April 30. It’s also very lively in my area. A bus for sixty people has already been rented in Ostend. Hopefully we can have a great party at Heysel.”
Source : HLN